INDIA: Zoroastrians Establish Sacred Baval Tree Groves
The Zoroastrians celebrated joining ARC in 2000 by presenting a Sacred Gift that symbolises the very heart of this ancient religion.
The sacred fire that burns perpetually in Zoroastrian fire temples is fuelled exclusively by the wood of the baval tree. Currently this wood is bought on the open market. With the Sacred Gift, the Zoroastrians of India (also called Parsis) commited to buying baval wood from sustainable sources - established by the Zoroastrian community.
In 2000, setting themselves a 15-year target, they began by buying land and reforesting it, creating tree nurseries and assessing the amount of land needed to provide all their sacred fuel. In 2001 they also agreed to create nature reserves on the land in order to contribute to biodiversity.
Zoroastrians believe in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. In this religious tradition, the way that an individual responds to the threat posed to the world by pollution shows whether he or she is allied with good or evil cosmic forces.
The Sacred Gift was the first of a proposed series of environmental actions arising from the Zoroastrians’ membership in ARC. New initiatives launched in 2001 and 2002 included sponsoring the breeding of vultures (because there are no longer enough of these birds in India to dispose of human bodies in the traditional Zoroastrian style) and building sustainable traditional housing, focusing especially on the reduction in energy use.